highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (grammar time)
(which is unlikely, since he disappeared in Mysterious Circumstances), I am going to have to make exaggerated gestures of gratitude and adoration.

Good things Craig Ronalds has done for me:

* carefully annotated all the way through Fisher's copy of Die "Institutes of Polity", translating relevant bits of German and scribbling down which MS Jost has put where, every time the layout gets confusing.
* marked off useful articles in England Before the Conquest.

and best of all (not that I cared at the time...)

* taught me functional grammar. Which, as a philological tool, is aggravating and not fun at all. But he was the first person to get me to engage with the words on the page, so to speak, to get me thinking about the way grammar encodes certain things about a character. Particularly verbs. Perhaps Craig can ultimately be blamed for my obsession with verbs of thought (I remember analysing the lack of thought-verbs assigned to the character Phuong in The Quiet American, for his class).

now I have awesometastic thoughts about Sir Gawain and grammar, and I wonder if, without Craig and his stupid functional grammar course, I would be thinking these thoughts now?
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (grammar time)
Nigerian English sounds awesome

For example, a TV isn't switched on or off — it's "on-ed" or "off-ed."

A Nigerian congratulating someone on a success or victory will likely "felicitate" him rather than offer felicitations. Similarly, people are invited to "jubilate," or celebrate, a triumph...


Mar. 9th, 2008 01:49 am
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (grammar time)
So, I'm obsessed with the Old English verb thyncan (yes, it has a thorn or an eth, but i'm too tired to type them). Happily for me, when I have to prepare comments on three aspects of vocabulary in Sir Gawain, i found its Middle English equivalent, and i went a bit nuts. My commentary on the other two bits of vocab won't be nearly this long, I swear.


The verb thinken in Middle English in fact consists of two separate verbs with a similar range of spellings and- to the modern reader- similar semantic fields, which nevertheless remain distinct according to the grammatical constructions in which they are used.

• The first (v.1, according to the Middle English dictionary) appears on line 49:
With lordez and ladies, as leuest him Þoȝt. (With lords and ladies, as seemed dearest to him)

• The second thinken, which also appears in our text- is in fact in the same glossary entry- is the ancestor of our modern verb to think, and descends from the Old English Þencan, to think, to exercise cognitive faculty. Semantically and gramattically it is closer to the Middle English/ early modern ‘to ween’ than to its homophone thinken.

• The first thinken, as it appears in line 49, should be thought of in terms of the early modern methinks.
The important thing to note is the difference in the case of the pronoun. Dative case pronouns (me, you, him- these are also the accusative case pronouns in modern english, but OE has a distinction in the third person, not sure about ME) are used to express an indirect object. The thinker does not initiate the cognitive process- is not the subject- but is the recipient of a fully formed impression.

• An impersonal verb has no subject, nothing seeming. The Middle English Dictionary lists two personal constructions of thinken (v. 1): ‘to present the appearance of, to seem to be’; or ‘to seem proper, to seem good’. These two meanings occur in Old English as well, but they do not survive in the early modern methinks. The example here in line 49 is a personal construction; the lords and ladies are seeming dearest to Arthur.

• The Middle English Dictionary lists a further six impersonal uses of thinken, variations on ‘it seems (to me) that’, ‘as it seemed to him’, and so forth. An interesting use of thinken in both Old and Middle English is to present something which ‘seemed to him’ in a dream or vision- a phrase which would now present a sense of unreality, but I think conveys something more like passivity, lack of concious control, in the Old and Middle English. You can also find methinks associated with this sort of context in Shakespeare- there’s a nice big batch of methinkses used as the dreamers in Midsummer Nights regain their wits and marvel at their experiences.

Finally, coming back to our line 49 here, lordez and ladies, as leuest him þoȝt. It tells us about Arthur’s mind- his affection for the lords and ladies- and, rather than expressing the sort of doubt that would go with ‘to seem’ in modern english (well, they seemed lovely to him at the time…), I think it constructs Arthur’s attatchment to these lords and ladies as almost instinctive, a response bypassing cognition.

As another note- I can’t seem to see much in the way of personal verbs of cognition in this first 250 words. Lots of seeing and appearing, little thinking. Does this mean something? I don’t know…
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (grammar time)
More verbs should be strong verbs. Accordingly, Dr Virago has hijacked the paradigm of the verb 'to wing':

...I'd like to declare that "to wing" is now a strong verb. Thus: I am winging it in class today, yesterday I wang it, and by tomorrow I will have wung it.

Just because.

Yes, please.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (grammar time)
It is with great regret that we reflect today upon the passing of cases from the English language. For many years they served tirelessly in the interests of grammar, indicating noun functions right throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. Not content to rest on their laurels, the cases put in some part-time work for Middle English, and can still be found declining a few solitary nouns (mouse, mice, anyone?), and defending their ground on pronouns, despite the iron rule of word order over their former territory.
While acknowledging the straightforward benefits of strict word order in day-to-day communication, we, the League of Grammar Nerds, would like to express our heartfelt thanks to grammatical cases for the flexibility they bestowed upon this language, and our great nostalgia for the lost era when it was a immeasurably less wanky to say 'I thine eyne adore', and many things more complicated.

hence follows a brief summary of Baker's Chapter Four )

I suspect case was probably a lot more fun to use than it is to untangle from a nasty sentence in translation.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (grammar time)
Me: Hey Mum, guess what [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin taught me?
Mum: What?
Me: He taught me to cleft a Gerund!
Mum: that sounds disgusting. Tell him he's not to teach you those things any more.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Jesus Called)

Our Father who art in Heaven,
hallowed by thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on Earth as in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our tresspasses
as we forgive those who tresspass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
and deliver us from evil.
(Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory,
now and forever)*

There, isn't it pretty? I have, in my mother's opinion, an irrational attatchment to the old-style Lord's Prayer. And to "Be thou my Vision" (bollocks to people who sing "You be my Vision", i say). It's a great puzzle to Mum, who maintains that she never taught it to me. Which, indeed, is true- she taught me the theologically sound version, popular in the Uniting Church )

I assume I picked the thees and thous up from reading old books, or something. Until I started with Anglo-Saxon, I didn't have any particular reason for preffering the old version. I just liked it better. Sounds pretty, has a nice sense of tradition to it.

I just trawled through my backlog to try to find an entry where I'd written up my discoveries about second-person pronouns. However, such an entry is unlocatable. So, in case anyone else out there was incredibly confused by the pronouns in Shakespeare, English pronouns should work something like French, with a singular and a plural/polite.

Grammatical fun )
Isn't that exciting?

It plays into status differentiation, though. One calls ones equals or inferiors thee and one's superiors you. The Quakers had to bugger off to America for persistently addressing politicians as thee in England.

Now think about the Lord's prayer again. Someone, somewhere- or many ones, everywhere- back in the dim dark past when it became customary to say the prayer in English, thought it was important enough that we have a close, affectionate, perhaps even an "equal" relationship with God, that they used the personal thou form.****** When I make these old words, out of time with the rest of my congregation, it's not that i feel God's so special he deserves better pronouns. God's too big for pronouns. Rather, I say them and I participate in a long tradition of personal, intimate thou-ing relationship with God. I enter into relationship, through the words, not only with the God to whom they are addressed, but with a community of faith which transcends time, space, and common grammar.

*Parts in brackets seem to be a random Protestant addition.
notes for the grammar fun )
****** this is probably based on something similar in the Latin version, mind. not an english innovation, but a conservation of said important factor.


Apr. 23rd, 2007 05:32 pm
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Grammar Time)
Kate's linguistic textbook has just shot down my grammatical adherence to non-inclusive language...

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, masculine pronouns were not used as the generic terms; the various forms of he were used when referring to males, and of she when referring to females. The pronoun they was used to refer to people of either sex even if the referent was a singular noun, as shown by Lord Chesterfield's statement in 1759: 'If a person is born of a gloomy temper... they cannot help it.
By the eighteenth century, grammarians (males to be sure) created the rule designating the male pronoun as the general term, and it wasn't until the nineteenth century that the rule was applied widely, after an Act of parliament in the United Kingdom in 1850 sanctioned its use. But this generic use of
he was ignored.

which makes me wonder... could the current parliament of the UK repleal said law? what would be the social implications thereof?
moreover, i am delighted to find there was once a time when grammar was of such importance that Parliament was passing acts on it :)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
after spending some hours struggling with parts of speech last night (for english... i think i'd be happier if it were French!), decided i hated grammar and was going to loathe english this semester. However, if i'm going to loathe it then i'm damn well going to UNDERSTAND it so i can loathe it properly. So i attacked 'groups and phrases' this afternoon. Am forced to admit that it's kinda cool. I mean, look at this:

'He lowered it down in a satchel at the end of a rope'. That's got three prepositions in it.
There's the prepositional phrase 'in a satchel at the end of a rope', which describes how he lowered it down. So it's an adverbial prepositional phrase.
Then there's the nominal group 'a satchel at the end of a rope', in which the prepositional phrase 'at the end of a rope' works like an adjective.
Then there's the nominal group 'the end of a rope', in which there's another prepositional phrase 'of a rope', which contains another nominal group, 'a rope'.

its like maths with no numbers in it whatsoever (the best kind of maths, imho). (in (a satchel (at (the end (of (a rope)))))) = actually, what DOES it equal? its not a whole clause yet... still. you get the idea. (the idea being, amy's gone off the deep end finaly... :P)


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